After wave of administrative detentions of opposition activists, denounced by local watchdog groups and over which OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s President expressed concern, Secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, called on the police to apply fines instead of detentions “where possible and rational”.
Speaking in his capacity of a chairman of inter-agency commission, which is tasked with addressing election-related violations, Bokeria said on September 26, that recent few days had seen upsurge in violent incidents.
“It is absolutely legitimate to do everything in frames of law to prevent spread of this violence. At the same time, I want to call on [the law enforcement agencies] to apply relatively light punishment when possible… and when rational, for example a fine. This is a very clear recommendation from us, I mean from the [inter-agency] commission” Bokeria said.
He said that about 30 people have been arrested over the past few days and sentenced to administrative imprisonment for various misdemeanors.
Human Rights Watch said on September 27, that “use of administrative detention to lock up protesters and political activists violates the country’s international commitments to safeguard against arbitrary detention.”
The Secretary of National Security Council said that over the past several months campaign in run up to the October 1 parliamentary elections was very dynamic. Although the key contestants were exchanging “often very tough and even aggressive messages”, Bokeria said, the campaigning was in overall peaceful.
“But unfortunately in recent days there has been an alarming trend of surge in violent incidents,” he said without referring to any specific incident.
There have been two cases of scuffles between the ruling party and Georgian Dream supporters on September 26 – one in Lagodekhi and another one in Signagi in the Kakheti region when opposition coalition’s leader Bidzina Ivanishvili was campaigning there. In both of these towns a group of ruling party activists and supporters, chanting “Misha, Misha” and “Go away”, were gathered in show of their disapproval of Ivanishvili’s arrival. Presence of groups from opposing parties in close proximity grew into scuffles and in Signagi police had to intervene to separate ruling party and Georgian Dream supporters.
The Interior Ministry said on September 25 that there was “upsurge in cases of violent behavior” especially in aftermath of prison abuse scandal. The ministry has denied allegations that the arrests were politically motivated.
While noting about increase in number of incidents, Secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, also said: “I do not want to dramatize; the situation in overall is so far peaceful and as I said we will definitely hold free and fair elections.”
He called on political party leaders “to send a very clear message to their activists and supporters… that violence or encouraging violence is categorically inadmissible.”
“Of course the authorities bear most of the responsibility for maintaining peace and for conducting peaceful, free and fair elections and I believe it will be the case,” Bokeria said. “But major political parties also have their share of responsibility in terms of what type of attitudes they will encourage among their supporters.”
The Georgian Dream said that by sentencing its activists to administrative imprisonment the authorities aimed at taking these activists out of the election process, especially on the election day.